Democrat stuffed animals and Republican stuffed animals

stuffed animals

(Warning! If you are nauseated when you read about grown adults playing with stuffed animals, and making them talk, and pretending that they’re real ladies and gentlemen, then look away. This is icky-poo stuff, and you should look elsewhere for something more adult.)

(Still here? Okay.)

Partner and I have noticed lately that the stuffed animals in our household are drifting apart. They all began in the bedroom, where we’re most comfortable, but some have lately migrated to the living room, where they seem to feel more comfortable.

We recently discovered that this was for political reasons. The bedroom animals are Republicans; the living-room animals are Democrats.

Well, first of all, we found that the bedroom animals were almost always having secret meetings under the bed, and when we dragged them out, they were very tight-lipped about their conversations. And who are they? The moose, whom we acquired in New Hampshire (a Republican state). The polar bear. (He’s white. Enough said.) And the shark (whom we bought at Ikea, okay, but who’s a shark, which means he almost certainly has Wall Street connections). There’s also an Ikea rat in the corner, peeking at the rest of them (probably a lobbyist).

In the living room, we have a jaguar (whose manufacturing tag informs me that his name is JAMAL, which means he’s either a Muslim or an African-American), and a lion whom we purchased in New York City (liberal enough for you?). Also Pluto from DisneyWorld, who’s a moderate, but with Hollywood connections. And a purple platypus, whom we believe to be emotionally disturbed. In brief: the Democratic caucus.

They have taken to shouting at one another from one room to another. It started with: “Vote Republican!” “Vote Democrat!” It’s gotten uglier lately: they’ve taken to name-calling. Nasty stuff!

It’s a shame when fuzzy little stuffed animals can’t agree.

I fear for the future of the American republic.

The 2012 election: why don’t minorities vote Republican?

Partner and I often watch “Up with Chris Hayes” on weekend mornings. I find him a bit shrill and wordy, but at least I agree with him and most of his guests. (And, as we all know, we all prefer to listen to people who confirm our beliefs and – gulp! – prejudices.)

On the morning of November 10, Chris had a very nice gentleman named Avik Roy on his panel. Avik is an American of Indian ancestry, whose expertise is in health care issues, and was described on the show as FORMER ROMNEY CAMPAIGN ADVISOR.

He was very gentle and reasonable on the show, which was to be expected; his party (and his candidate) had just lost a big election, and he was surrounded by political opponents (mostly raving liberals, like yours truly).

But he still said some ridiculous things.

Such as:

“My mother is a very conservative person: she’s frugal, she believes in self-reliance. She’s a natural Republican. But she insists on voting for Democrats.”

And: “The Republican Party is about small government, and fiscal conservatism. It’s not about bigotry or racial disenfranchisement.”

And: “I understand how Mexican immigrants, legal or illegal, must feel in the United States. But I feel more strongly for the people who have tried to enter legally. I think of the Indian school valedictorian who wanted to enter the United States, but who found that he/she wasn’t able to get a visa because of the Obama administration’s policies, and I ask myself if this is really fairness.”

These are all valid opinions, stated respectfully and intelligently, and I respect all three of them.

Except that they’re all completely specious.

#1: “My mother is a very conservative person: she’s frugal, she believes in self-reliance. She’s a natural Republican. But she insists on voting for Democrats.” Kiddo: your mother has dark skin. She has been experiencing American racial prejudice for longer than you have, and in a more intense way. The Democrats are an inclusive party, and welcomes minorities; of course your mother feels more comfortable with them. You, Avik, are younger, and more educated, and have grown up in a more liberal society, and have experienced much less prejudice as a result. Do you get that?


#2: “The Republican Party is about small government, and fiscal conservatism. It’s not about bigotry or racial disenfranchisement.” The first sentence is more or less true. Sadly, the second sentence is not true. As several other panel members explained to Avik Roy on the show, Nixon’s Southern Strategy was all about using bigotry to get people to vote Republican. At the beginning, it was just a campaign strategy: the Republicans get bigots to vote for the GOP, and once they’re in office, they’ll quietly ignore that section of the electorate. (Nixon was a pretty awful president, and a bigot, but he didn’t legislate bigotry.) Over time, however, the bigots realized they were being snubbed by the GOP, and insisted on representation. So we get terms like “illegals” and “welfare cheats,” and we know that we mean “Hispanics” and “African-Americans.” So, Avik, I’m afraid your party – for many reason – has in fact espoused bigotry as a vote-getting method, and (once in office) tends to legislate that bigotry.

Worst of all, #3: “I think of the Indian school valedictorian who wanted to enter the United States, but who found that he/she wasn’t able to get a visa because of the Obama administration’s policies, and I ask myself if this is really fairness.” Oh, Avik. Do you think that the average Republican voter, in Mississippi or Wyoming or Arizona, would welcome that Indian school valedictorian in the United States? Certainly not. He’s not white, Avik. He’s an Indian.

Avik, Avik. Go have a chat with your mother. And get a clue.

Rhode Island, bluest of the blue states

There was an interesting graphic in the Times recently, showing how various US districts have moved to the Left and Right over the past few elections. This year, of course, it’s a glare of red stars moving Right.


These charts remind me of the Doppler effect as seen by astronomers. When a star or galaxy is moving away from us, its light is shifted down the spectrum so that it looks more reddish; if it’s coming toward us, the light is shifted toward the blue. The 2010 map is red, red, red, which feels appropriate to me: the country is moving away from me and my personal beliefs, leaving the map awash in a bloody glare. For now, anyway.


It’s not universal, though. There are a few glints of blue here and there – districts that actually became more strongly Democratic this year, defying the trend. They’re all over the country. And some are even here in New England.


Rhode Island – wizened, scrappy, scrawny little Rhode Island – is still one of the bastions of Blue State America; only the District of Columbia has a stronger Democratic presence. Politics themselves are blue-shifted here: Republicans, to be successful, have to be far meeker than elsewhere in the country, and Democrats can be as fiery as they like. Entitlements, pensions, state-run disability plans – they’re facts of life here.


I’m a Democrat, of a sort, but I yearn for a wider spectrum of representation. I was stupid enough to think, in this election, that we might begin to see an end to the Democratic-Republican polarization of America, and the birth of a couple of viable third parties. The local ballot was full of third-party candidates: plain Independents, one Cool Moose, one “Hour with Bob” candidate, and a full slate of Moderate Party candidates, with their own logo and website and everything. I voted for two third-party candidates, in fact. One of them actually won: Lincoln Chafee, our Governor-elect, a former Republican who ran as an Independent.


But nationwide, third parties were a non-starter. Gail Collins has consistently maintained the superiority of the two-party system, saying that it’s hard to govern with a majority if you’re elected by a 37% vote. I think it’s a shame. In systems with three or four or five parties, you are forced to form coalitions, and compromise. No one is deluded into believing that his party’s platform is going to be voted into law as one huge chunk. And you can belong to a party that more properly represents your own beliefs.


I know the flip side of this coin: it only works if everyone agrees to play. If the liberals shatter into three parties, they’ll split the left-wing vote, and the monolithic Right (which is anything but monolithic, really, but which pretends to be monolithic for campaign purposes) wins the election. But I’m beginning to wonder how comfortable the Tea Party people are feeling as members of the GOP, and how soon it will be before they create their own intransigent little party.


But Rhode Island – ah. Not a single Republican in high state office. Both US Senators, both of our US Representatives, the Lieutenant Governor, the Secretary of State, and the Attorney General are all Democrats; the new Governor is an Independent. It’s the Worker’s Paradise!


I wish it were. We manage to foster quite a bit of scandal and corruption here. Here are a few of our greatest hits:


  • Ed diPrete, Governor. Republican. Bribery, extortion, racketeering. Went to jail.

  • Brian Sarault, Mayor of Pawtucket. Democrat. Bribery. Went to jail.

  • Fernand St. Germain, US Representative. Democrat. Helped engineer the savings and loan crisis of the early 1990s. Didn’t go to jail. Probably should have.

  • Those guys up in North Providence.

  • And everyone’s favorite: Vincent “Buddy” Cianci, Mayor of Providence. Democrat. Racketeering. Went to jail. (Did lots of other stuff too, including torturing his ex-wife’s boyfriend with a lit cigar and a fireplace log.) Now out of jail, and working as a political commentator on local radio and TV. He gets everything completely wrong, but he has a devoted audience, and I know people who quote him all the time.


All hail the Worker’s Paradise!


But I like living in a blue state, in blue New England. We Rhode Islanders aren’t genteel Democrats like the ones in Connecticut, or wild-eyed socialist cheesemaker Democrats like the ones in Vermont, or hard-headed baseball fanatic Democrats like the ones in Massachusetts. We have our own ways. We putter around our pocket-sized Utopia with a sigh and a shrug and a roll of the eyes. Nothing’s perfect. And – hey. Things could be worse. We could be living in Wyoming, after all.


Or Alaska.




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